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These Days


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#1 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 05:35 AM

Hello all.

Based on David?s model, and how well that was received I am starting a production journal for a feature I am shooting for 30 days; starting June 27th. The project is called ?These Days?, and will be directed by Chad McQuay.

The project is an extremely low budget feature with a shooting schedule that is a little too short for the material and all the locations (there are many).

The story is fairly complex, so I will let the summery that the writer/ director created speak for itself:
?Set in Los Angeles during the opening days of the War in Iraq, "These Days" examines the lives of ordinary young Americans struggling to cope with the world around them. The film is told through a series of vignettes, from which four central stories emerge, each of the character's lives distinctly linked to the next. By overlapping the narratives, deftly moving back and forth across a timeline a la "Amores Perros", "Pulp Fiction", etc, these chance encounters build to a crescendo.

There's Tara, a young black woman plagued with a gripping fear of death after being attacked outside her apartment complex. Darrin, her neighbor, is torn between his girlfriend and an old flame who's returned from overseas. Anne, Darrin's filmmaker girlfriend, distracts herself from the love triangle by attempting to help her documentary subject Travis deal with his anger towards the world. Finally, Shawn, a scraggly-haired musician, struggles with feelings of guilt over a fatal car accident.?

The cast is a nice mix of talented new comers, as well as several very seasoned performers such as Kurtwood Smith and Beth Grant. All very understated, all very well cast. This project is so character driven that the casting was unusually critical (in my opinion).

The script is also quite good, and is able to take the above structure which has been done many times before in very interesting directions. The point of this film is not to reinvent the genre, but to do it justice.

The director and I had discussions about how to differentiate the various stories visually from one and other, and what to do when they intertwine. We decided not to take extreme measures in the look for each character. The differences will be subtle ones, mostly in the art direction. The color pallet will not be particularly extreme for any character, just a slight bias towards warmer, cooler, or neutral colors depending on whose story we are in.

As I said, this project is extremely low budget so generally things are tight in all departments. This project was set to shoot last year. We got very close to shooting, but due to last minute changes in actor availability, the producers decided that we would not be well enough prepared to continue forward (which was probably the right choice). At the same time ?Lost? got picked up, so off Chad went to Hawaii for this last year, revising the script and raising more money.

Over the course of the previous prep the question of what format we were going to shoot was up in the air some. It went from DVX100 to HDCam, slight murmurs about S16, to SDX900, back to DVX. I am actually okay with this choice. I like the camera, and have gotten results that I was very happy with in the past. We will be shooting in a lot of practical apartments, with several characters in some scenes moving around a lot. The camera?s small size will help facilitate that. Plus, the fact that the format we are shooting will have little impact on the budget helps everyone else?s department. All around everyone got some more money for equipment, etc.
There are quite a few locations. As I said, small apartments are major locations in the film. It is still up in the air as to if we can build at least two of the apartments (the main ones) on a stage to give us more flexibility all around.

We also have several driving scenes, a car crash, some bar scenes, a large war protest (which a 2nd unit had shot already when there was an actual war protest going on), several night exteriors, and more small apartments . . . with a lot of dialogue we will have to move extremely fast to meet our 30 day schedule.

My lighting style for this project will be as un-intrusive as possible. Mostly lighting from outside of the windows in such a way that gives the actor and camera freedom of movement without a lot of relighting. To facilitate lighting from outside the windows of these practical apartments, my gaffer, Chris Hughes, designed a rig which is a ?menace arm? that arms a small HMI (usually a 1.2k PAR) out about 6 feet from the window with a pulley system to allow for easy panning of the light.

It is very hard to come up with a lighting and grip package that is flexible enough for our various locations, yet cheap enough to work for us. The issue is not only money for gear, but money for crew as well. Based on that, we decided not to get any large (heavy) fresnel units. Originally we were going with 12ks for our ?big guns?, but decided that because it really takes 3 guys to head up the unit, they would slow us down way too much, and be too big for most of our locations. Thus we are going with a very small package. Our main lighting units will be 2 ? 4k HMI PARs, 2 ? 1.2k HMI PARs, and Kino Flos. If you are curious about the details of our grip and electric package, you can view the full list here:
http://www.kevinzani...edays/ge_v4.pdf

That?s it for now. I will do my best to keep this thing updated if anyone is interested, but I am no David Mullen, I don?t know if I will be able to update as frequently as he can . . . I will try however.

Kevin Zanit
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#2 J. Lamar King

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 05:55 AM

So I guess you're saying you guys did settle on the DVX-100 for sure?
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#3 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 06:00 AM

Yes. We will carry at least 2 DVXs at all times. I think the camera and format will work out well for what we are doing. Obviously not the best format available, but possibly the best for this project.


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#4 Patrick Neary

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 09:49 AM

Hi- I'm curious about how you're handling widescreen for your project (assuming it's not 4:3)? Are you cropping in camera or using one of the anamorphics, and any reasons for arriving at that particular decision?

Thanks- i look forward to your updates-
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#5 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 02:30 PM

If we do go the route of 1.85 I will just shoot with our monitor masked for 1.85, and shoot in 4:3 mode. This gives us the most flexibility as far as reframing, etc.

For post a letterboxed version will be made. For projection, we would probably up-convert the footage to digibeta or HDCam just to have more flexible screening options (in festivals with digital projection). For that we would probably letterbox 14 pixels and make a "stretched" 1.77 transfer. There are no plans to make a film out at this point. If we were to do one, I would just probably have them transfer a 4:3 image and then let it get masked in 1.85 projection (although it is a little scary relying on them not to project it full aperture, so maybe I would hard matte it). Most of the post process will depend on money and the future of the project upon its completion. There is not a lot of money budgeted for post, but we don't need a lot at this point, it is all relatively inexpensive steps.


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#6 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 10:02 PM

Are you going to accessorize the cameras? You know matte-box, follow focus? (I remember Nancy Schrieber ASC saying she added the accesories so the actors would take the camera more seriously.) How 'bout that P/S Technik 35 adapter?
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#7 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 11:54 PM

Yes and no.

I will use a matte box and rods system on the camera so I can use grads, and not deal with screw on filters. I am not sure whether I will use the follow focus system.

I remember the article, and I got a laugh out of it, but one of the big advantages of the camera for this project is its compact size, thus why I won't bulk it up with accessories.

If it was in the budget to rent the P/S adapter (times 2) with a good set of primes, we would be shooting HD the way the pricing would work out.

Also, the extra light needed for the adapter would be a problem for some of our night stuff.


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#8 rajavel

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 02:18 PM

great kevin. looking forward for the valuable details of ur shooting that u are gonna share with us. i had shot a short film on Canon XL1 recently. it was good. i liked the body very much..its weight was ideal for hand held shots and panning shots. we shot that entirely on a train. it was about two strangers meeting on a train and how they continue their journey of life. a little similar to hollywood film...sunset something. any way i haven't tried dvx 100. do let me know how it goes. good luck. cheers!
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#9 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 08:17 PM

Still prepping. Having more discussions with the director about how best to cover a lot of the long dialogue scenes efficiently. We will most likely use two cameras for a lot of the scenes, but not shooting against each other. They will be on the same axis, one shooting closer coverage and inserts. If a second camera is hurting the lighting a lot, or just getting in the way I simply won?t use it, but it is good to have the option of using both.

We have decided on an aspect ratio to mask for. It will be 1.85. A big factor in that decision, to me, was if we shoot in a studio or practical location. Although 1.85 is not particularly wide, in a small cramped apartment it can be killer on where I can put stands and other various pieces of equipment. If we are on a stage, I can light from the grid thus eliminating any of my concerns. That said, 1.85 is not that wide, so it is not a huge problem, but it can become a factor of time in these small rooms.
From a creative standpoint, 1.85 suits the story well. Its target is festivals, so I would rather see 1.85 projected than 1.33, plus it is more standard, so I am happy with the choice of 1.85.

On the subject of lighting equipment, I have never been a big fan of Chimeras. Mainly I never used them all that much, but shooting in these small spaces (as I have done a lot of recently on music videos) makes me appreciate them more. This will be one the first narrative pieces I have done that I have extensively used them on, but they help so much in keeping the spill and bounce back from the lighting units and diffusion under control that I am a convert, thus I have ordered a few for this show.

Also, for anyone interested in the equipment side, here is a revised equipment list (based on location scouts, etc, etc):
http://www.kevinzani...ays/G_E_V5w.pdf

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#10 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 09 June 2005 - 04:19 AM

Looks good : fingers crossed all goes well

2 questions:

no curved track for the dolly?
What are you planning for "on camera" light and power for it?

thanks

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#11 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 09 June 2005 - 02:02 PM

I don't usually carry curved track on narrative pieces due to fact that I almost never need a curved move.

That said, if the director and myself see a place in the script where a curved move would be appropriate, then I would modify the order. The director does not see that many dolly moves in general.

I am not sure what you mean by "on-camera" light. If you mean one that like a news camera would have, then I am not using one. If you mean something different, please explain.

Power for all the stuff will be from a generator (probably a 500amp one, no reason for much bigger).


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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 June 2005 - 07:20 PM

I usually carry one 45 degree and one 90 degree curved piece of track as a minimum.
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#13 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 07:15 AM

not a news camera kind of light

but rather a dedolight or china ball or even ringlite

Something light that can move easily (usually 12 or 24V) and provide eyelight or low fill - if needed

Might not be needed...

thanks

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#14 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 01:20 PM

Oh, I see what you were asking.

I have a Dedo kit, and on some days a 400w. Joker w/ batteries. I also have an 18" mini flo on the list.

Good points.


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#15 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 12:23 PM

Hello,

I never posted this, but we were due to start shooting last week, but due to some last minute changes we ended up pushing a week.

We start tomorrow. We have a rather odd schedule because of the push.

In the film there is a documentary and a student film that were made by one of the characters. We will shoot both of these tomorrow and Friday (tomorrow the documentary, Friday the student film).

Then after the holiday (Tuesday) we go into the real principle photography.

For the first two days there is very little for me to do, as the projects are supposed to look amateurish. In fact I don't even have a grip/ electric package on Thursday.

As far as the rest of the shoot goes, we are looking at about 32 setups a day. This is a little higher than I like, but I will get a lot of them with two cameras. That said, on some days there are also company moves. It is all pretty necessary to get it all done in this schedule, thus all the moving.

I feel pretty good about everything going in, everyone seems to have done their homework. I don't have the entire movie shot listed yet, but I am enough ahead to get the rest done before we need it. I could not imagine doing this film without shot lists, it would be suicide.

These two days will at least help get everyone aquatinted with each other, and is a nice way to ease into production.

I will post pictures, etc as I get them.


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#16 Jayson Crothers

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 06:13 PM

All our best Kevin! Keep us updated as you can on how the shoot is going.
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#17 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 29 June 2005 - 11:53 PM

Thanks!


Kevin
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